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Leading A Police Department Under Fire: A Conversation With Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper

photo of tammy hooper in the blue ridge public radio station
Amanda Magnus

In late February, leaked bodycam footage of a white Asheville police officer beating a black pedestrian went viral, and the city is still reeling. The footage captured an incident that took place Aug. 24, 2017 when former Asheville Police Officer Chris Hickman confronted city resident Johnnie Jermaine Rush over alleged jaywalking and trespassing. Footage shows Hickman beat, choked, punched and stunned Rush.

The former officer faces charges of felony assault and the FBI is currently investigating the incident. Meanwhile the city has experienced fallout of its own: in March the city council voted unanimously to dismiss City Manager Gary Jackson, and many other city and county officials are still feeling the heat. Among them is Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper who has led the department since July 2015. Reports show that from 2016-2017, the department’s use of force has dramatically decreased, and the amount of citizen complaints has gone down. But some argue that last summer’s incident undermined trust between her department and the African-American community, in particular.

When we have incidents like this, it really sets us back on what we've tried to build. We basically have to start over and keep going. As long as I am here, that's my goal.- Chief Tammy Hooper

Host Frank Stasio talks with Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper about last summer’s incident, the fallout, and her ongoing efforts to improve police tactics.

Watch our conversation with Chief Hooper:


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Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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